The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies
St Austell Old Cornwall Society
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Colours : Green and Red
Affiliated to the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, some 46 local societies exist throughout the county of Cornwall. The Old Cornwall movement began in the early 20th century when it was realised that, as time went on, there was a danger that much of the distinctive heritage and culture of Cornwall could be lost forever. The motto, “Gather ye the fragments that are left, that nothing be lost” could not be more appropriate, and members are urged to record, for posterity, information, however small, relating to archaeology, dialect, place names, folk songs and music in particular, and the Cornish way of life in general. Each Society has a Recorder who notes, amongst other things, changes taking place in its neighbourhood and, wherever possible, takes photographs before scenes are altered.
Much work is carried out to preserve and protect Cornish antiquities and relics, and to provide informative plaques to ensure recognition of Cornwall’s famous sons and daughters.
Officers of the Society
President: Mrs. Valerie Jacob
Chairman: Mr. David Stark
Treasurer: Miss Christine Ruse.
Secretary Mrs. Carole Stark
Contact : Mrs. C.A. Stark
Orchard Lodge, London Apprentice, ST AUSTELL, PL26 7AR.
Winter Programme 2011 / 12
St. Austell Old Cornwall Society is one of the oldest societies in the county, having been formed on 14th December, 1925. Today, it is proud of having a membership of 140 and we meet in the Cornerstone Room, Baptist Church, Trinity Street, St. Austell. at 7.30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month between September and May. Talks are usually illustrated by slides and they are chosen to cover a broad range of topics relating to Cornwall. During the summer months, “pilgrimages”, as they are termed, are organised to places of interest, and, in December, there is a Christmas Dinner with appropriate entertainment.
Currently, the membership fee of St. Austell Old Cornwall Society is £4 per annum and visitors are most warmly invited to our meetings. New members are always welcomed and there is certainly no need to feel that you have to be of Cornish birth or descent to join us !
Members are also encouraged to attend events organised by other Old Cornwall Societies which revive old customs such as the Mid-summer Bonfires, and “Crying the Neck” at the end of harvest.
The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies holds a Summer Festival at a different venue within the county each year, where guided tours, visits and talks are organised, and at the Winter Festival there is a talk and some form of entertainment. At both events, a parade of banners of each society, which bear relevant features of their locality in their design, provides a most colourful spectacle.
|Pilgrimages - Summer 2012:|
Federation Events 2012
Saturday 10th March
|Federation Spring Meeting||County Hall, Truro|
Saturday 14th July
Saturday 6th October
|Annual General Meeting||County Hall, Truro 2.pm|
Federation Journal published twice a year
Eisteddfod of Cornwall.
|1st September 2012||Gorsedd||
|5th March||St Piran's Day|
Monday, 13th May 2013
A Cornish Places Quiz
St. Austell’s Coat of Arms
ST. AUSTELL is a pleasant market town situated on the southern slope of a hill overlooking the lower part of the Pentewan Valley.
In the reign of King Henry VIII, it was described by his antiquary, John Leland (1506-1552), as being a “poore toun with nothing notable but the paroch chirch.” However, the success of tin-mining at nearby Polgooth not long afterwards led initially to St. Austell’s rise in prosperity. The Cornish historian, Tonkin, writing in the early 1700s, considered Polgooth to be “the richest work in the kingdom”, producing £20,000 worth of tin per year. By 1837, Polgooth was the third largest producer of tin in Cornwall. St. Austell, with its blowing-houses (smelting-houses), had become an important place and for a short while between 1833 and 1838 it operated as a coinage town confirming that the tin had been properly assayed and ensuring that the duty chargeable by the Duchy of Cornwall was paid.
Tin mining started to decline after the middle of the 19th century, but, fortunately for St. Austell, the discovery of deposits of china clay in its hinterland towards the end of the 1700s meant further prosperity for the town and the surrounding area. This extractive industry gradually replaced tin-mining and led to St. Austell’s further importance, the town becoming a centre known throughout the world for producing this valuable commodity used in so many manufacturing processes.
Today, the extraction of china clay from the decomposed granite in huge excavations is still the main industry of the St. Austell area. Current practice is to restore the landscape when economical, whilst some worked-out pits serve as reservoirs for the vast quantities of water used in washing the clay from the faces of the pits. These worked-out pits have a scenic quality all of their own and provide much valued habitat for flora and fauna.
The heart of St. Austell has to be its fine Perpendicular-style parish church, built of the much-used, mellow, elvan stone quarried at Pentewan. The church was consecrated by Bishop Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter, on 9th October, 1259, but records confirm that a church existed on the site in 1169. The oldest part of the present building is St. Michael’s Chapel at its south-east corner. The Nave and the 94ft high Somerset-type tower were built in the 15th century. The outside of the church is richly adorned with figures carved in Pentewan stone, perpetuating the theme of the Holy Trinity on the tower. Shields along the south wall portray the story of the Passion and describe the Ascension.
Above the arched doorway leading into the south aisle is a carving of a pelican – a symbol of piety – with outstretched wings, feeding her brood with blood from her breast.
Of the monuments within the church, those to the Sawle family of Penrice, who were great benefactors to St. Austell, are the most numerous. The latest one relates to Richard Charles Graves-Sawle, a Lieutenant in the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, who was killed at the battle of Ypres on 2nd November, 1914. His death ended the male line of his branch of the Sawle family.
Menacuddle Holy Well, approximately
three-quarters of a mile to the north-west of the Parish Church, his
death is also recorded on a tablet affixed to the Well Chapel, or Baptistry,
by his father, Rear Admiral Sir Charles John
Some of St. Austell’s most impressive buildings are in the vicinity of the parish church. The Queen’s Head is one of the oldest buildings in the town, dating from the 17th century when it was an ale house. The White Hart Hotel, which faces the south side of the church, is an elegant Georgian house, built as a private residence for Charles Rashleigh who founded the port of Charlestown between 1791 and 1801 to export tin, copper ore and china clay. Rare wallpaper depicting “the Bay of Naples”, with which Rashleigh had decorated the walls of his dining room at the end of the 18th century, was removed some years later to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
St. Austell’s “new” Market House, designed by Cope & Eales of London, and built by Olver & Son of Falmouth, opened in 1844. It replaced an earlier market house, believed to have been situated nearer to the west door of the church. This Grade II* listed building has two floors, and, at one time, it incorporated the Town Hall and a fire station. Granite piers support a vaulted ceiling over the main entrance hall and stone stairs lead from a secondary front entrance to what was once the Town Hall, later to become a picture house. From the ground floor market hall, occupied by butchers’ stalls in the early days, two stone stairways lead to a gallery landing on the first-floor, beyond which is a further stone-paved area at present accommodating shop units. The most impressive feature of the market house has to be its timbered roof construction. Trusses of yellow pine and beams, in an intricate web, span the full width of the building.
Public meetings and exhibitions were held in the market house and both William Gladstone and Winston Churchill have addressed St. Austell residents from the landing.
The Red Bank (St. Austell Bank), built for Coode, Shilson & Co., at the end of Church Street and facing the Bull Ring, ranks as one of St. Austell’s most impressive buildings – not only in its design, but also in its striking colour. Erected in 1898, it was designed by a Luxulyan-born architect, Silvanus Trevail so that a gable end faced each of the roads which approached it. The red bricks used in the building were made at Ruabon in North Wales.
Silvanus Trevail was a prolific architect, designing many schools, chapels and public buildings. His style featured steeply-pitched roofs and large windows. Another of his impressive buildings within the town is the former Liberal Club at the west end of Fore Street. This building, opened in 1890, was designed for Francis Leyland Barrett, J.P., who was made a Baronet in 1908 and who was M.P. for St. Austell from 1915 until 1918.
Tregonissey House, as it is known today, which is a few yards to the north of the church, was originally the “steam brewery” built by Walter Hicks in 1869 on the site of the old London Inn.
This business was so successful that within 24 years larger premises were necessary. In 1893, Walter Hicks acquired a site in Tregonissey Lane (now Trevarthian Road) and work on the building of the present-day brewery commenced. St. Austell Brewery has a chain of public houses and hotels throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Approximately one and a half miles to the east of St. Austell, the menhir (standing stone) known as the Gwallon Longstone stands in the grounds of Penrice Community College. Recorded in 1740 as being 13 feet in height, it is one of the best-preserved longstones in the county.
St. Austell Church Tower and the expanse of Blackpool Clay Works silhouetted against the setting sun
FIRST FOR ST. AUSTELL – A TOWN MUSEUM
Austell Old Cornwall Society opened its new museum to the public on 16th
June, 2011 in part of the town’s historic Market House.
Situated in an ideal position between the main entrance to the
Market House and the Hop & Vine public house opposite the Parish
Church, the museum occupies the two original police lock-up cells and part
of the stairwell to the first floor of the building.
One of the cells has been maintained as a jail, complete with
replicas of a prisoner and a police constable in period costume, whilst
the other has been adapted to represent a kitchen of an earlier era.
A collection of old advertising posters adorning the walls on the
ground floor of the museum and the walls of display cabinets on the first
floor of the Market House form a considerable part of the items on show
and these give a valuable insight into the social activities of St.
Austell and district. Numerous
articles and photographs have been generously donated or loaned to the
Society and put on show on the ground floor which has easy access at
The museum is open until the end of October from 10.00
a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Monday
to Friday and from 10.00
a.m. to 2.00 p.m. on Saturday. Entry
"In 2005, St. Austell Old Cornwall Society had been meeting in the town for 80 years. As part of the celebrations of its 80th Aniversary, the Society produced a booklet giving information on its formation, events in the area during the 1920s, examples of the work of the Recorders, projects undertaken by the Society and articles relating to the Society and to St. Austell by members and by former shopkeepers".
Having 40 pages of text and photographs, the booklet is available from the Society's Chairman, Mr. David Stark, Orchard Lodge, London Apprentice, St. Austell, PL26 7AR or by e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost of the book itself is £2.00, plus postage and packing as follows:-
U.K. £1.15 / copy
Europe £1.75 / copy ( 2 copies £2.25 )
U.S.A. £2.50 / copy ( 2 copies £3.50 )
Australia £2.50 / copy ( 2 copies £3.50 )
The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies is a Registered Charity. No. 247283
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